Administrative History
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Much of the management of Mojave National Preserve takes place out of the direct public eye. Park visitors see only the tip of the employee iceberg. Those rangers who do directly interact with park patrons generally come from two of the Preserve's administrative divisions. Some are law enforcement rangers, in charge of protecting park visitors and the resources of the Preserve. Others are interpretive rangers, responsible for educating the public about Mojave National Preserve. Both law enforcement rangers and interpretive personnel are common to nearly all NPS units, but both job types at Mojave National Preserve have unusual features because of the size of the park and its proximity to urban areas.

After the Dollar Budget threat passed, one of the first priorities for the park was establishment of a ranger program. The departure of Bill Blake and the seasonal rangers left the Preserve virtually unprotected. Sean McGuinness was stationed at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve before being chosen as Mojave's Chief Ranger. Upon his arrival, he was placed in charge of all visitor services. The management team allocated money for three law enforcement rangers and two more interpretive rangers to assist Kirsten Talken. As Mojave National Preserve tried to reinvigorate a dormant ranger program, the law enforcement and interpretive challenges seemed daunting. [271]

Resource and Visitor Protection

At Mojave National Preserve, the challenges posed both by urban growth in the Southwest and by the compromises inherent in the park's formation fall squarely on the shoulders of the law enforcement ranger corps. Mojave is a "nowhere between two somewheres," and it is these "somewheres" — specifically the greater Los Angeles and Las Vegas metropolitan areas — that contribute to most of the workload for Mojave's law enforcement rangers. Speeding motorists, clandestine drug labs, graffiti, and theft and damage of natural resources result from Mojave's urban proximity. Other incidents have resulted from the railroads and freeways that run through and adjacent to park lands, connecting the sprawling urban areas. Citizen attitudes toward the desert ecosystem of Mojave National Preserve complicate management even further. Many Americans viewed the desert as a wasteland, a mindset that did little to discourage illegal OHV use and illegal dumping. The history of low-key BLM management left its own legacy, further complicating the job of Mojave's rangers. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all was posed by the park's vast size - precisely how does one effectively patrol a 1.6 million acre park with only a handful of rangers?

Situated between two interstate freeways and between two major metropolitan areas, Mojave National Preserve endures a tremendous amount of road traffic that uses paved park roads as shortcuts. Much of this traffic travels between the Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms areas and Las Vegas. These visitors usually speed through the park, typically along Kelbaker and Kelso-Cima roads. Half of Mojave's ranger vehicles are outfitted with radar, and rangers watch carefully for violators as they patrol the park. Despite the fact that Mojave's posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour permits travel through Mojave faster than in most national parks, some visitors have been clocked at speeds half again as fast. In a typical example, Ranger Tim Duncan issued three tickets to motorists traveling 87mph, 70mph, and 80mph within a period of two hours on a single day in November 2001. Speeds in excess of 90mph are periodically detected. [272] Rangers also issue tickets for other typical traffic violations, such as accidents and disregarded stop signs, as well as more park-related violations such as "travel off a designated route." [273] The heavy emphasis that rangers at Mojave National Preserve must place on traffic stops and other sorts of work more typical of police forces in order to ensure public safety highlights the challenge posed to the ranger corps by Mojave's urban proximity. [274]

One of the most dangerous consequences of Mojave's nearness to urban areas is the use of the park by illegal narcotics manufacturers and drug dealers. Manufacture of illegal methamphetamine, often referred to as "crystal meth," has posed a considerable problem to the park. Meth is a synthetic drug, and the manufacturing process emits strong odors, which make labs easily detectable in urban areas. Abandoned sites in rural areas with little supervision but easy access to urban markets pose ideal conditions for methamphetamine manufacturers. Mojave's abandoned mine sites contain buildings and debris, which help meth manufacturers hide evidence of their activities. People associated with illegal drugs are usually heavily armed, and pose a substantial threat to the personal safety of law enforcement rangers or park visitors who come into contact with them.

On three separate occasions in October and November 1999, Ranger Sean Isham discovered large cardboard boxes with empty pseudoephedrine bottles. Twice these were found near the junction of Nipton Road and I-15, and once along a primitive road on the south side of Clark Mountain. Some human hairs were taken from the boxes as evidence. The presence of empty bulk pseudoephedrine containers suggests the presence of meth labs in the area, as over-the-counter pseudoephedrine can be cooked into crystal meth. [275]

Even more problematic than the use of abandoned mine sites by drug producers is the potential for mobile meth labs in the Preserve. In April 2001, an NPS ranger contacted a confidential informant who had observed on several occasions a suspected mobile methamphetamine lab, contained in an old Ryder truck. The informant also made note of the unsavory types that were associated with the truck, and pointed out that they had motorcycles and were heavily armed, with shotguns, rifles, and perhaps handguns as well. The same informant had seen what might have been a nighttime landing at the Lanfair airstrip, and overheard discussions about "tak[ing] a load to Las Vegas." The NPS ranger investigated the airstrip and found tire tracks, several weeks old, including some that might have come from a light plane. Clearly, the possibility of drug trafficking and methamphetamine manufacturing provides an edge of danger to park employees and visitors. [276]

Park rangers routinely patrol abandoned sites that might be attractive for drug producers, and have discovered several methamphetamine labs as a result. In February 1998, rangers on patrol found activity at Rainbow Wells that looked like a drug lab. Mojave received help from Death Valley NP and the Drug Enforcement Agency in setting up surveillance of the site. Some two weeks later, authorities raided the site early in the morning and caught Eric Wilson and Timothy Matthews in the act of producing crystal meth. The agents seized an arsenal of weapons as well as methamphetamine worth $75,000. Convicted in federal court, Wilson received a nine-and-one- half-year sentence, while Matthews waits out a twenty year sentence, neither with the possibility of parole. [277]

mine shack
Illustration 15 - NPS Rangers caught two suspects manufacturing methamphetamine in these buildings at the New Trail Mine. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2001.)

In February 2001, Rangers Kirk Gebicke and Chris Jefferson noticed new locks on buildings at the New Trail Mine during a routine patrol of the area. The next day, as snow began to fall, Gebicke and Tim Duncan went to saw off the locks, and met four men in a pickup truck leaving the New Trail Mine. The rangers searched their vehicle, but found only camping equipment. The suspects also yielded a key that fit the padlocks the quartet had installed on mine buildings. The rangers proceeded to the mine, where they found considerable evidence suggesting the presence of an illegal drug lab at the site. NPS rangers guarded the area until the arrival of county drug task force members the following day. A subsequent search of the area revealed a considerable amount of drug-making equipment and ten gallons of pure methamphetamine oil, valued at more than $50,000, ready to be converted into the drug's final crystalline form. The area cost $20,000 to clean up, and in 2002, the case remained under adjudication. [278]

Vandalism and damage of park resources occurs with alarming frequency in the desert. Vandals deface or steal prehistoric rock art, shoot wildlife, buildings and signs, and sometimes burn historic structures to the ground. Unintentional damage due to negligence also causes problems. The Park Service can use a recent statute, known correctly as the "Park System Resources Protection Act" and informally as "19jj" after its U.S. Code section number, to recover money to repair park resources damaged by individual or collective action. The 19jj statute has been used at Mojave National Preserve to exact damages for wilderness road violations, resource damage due to airplane crashes, and all other incidents of deliberate or unintentional damage to park resources. [279]

Petty vandalism, conducted by parties unknown for no apparent reason, makes up the bulk of deliberate damage to park resources, but the park has to handle deliberate destruction of the environment for economic gain as well. In 1999, a company constructed a microwave tower just south of I-40, but required access to the site over park roads. After appropriate compliance documents were completed, the Park Service issued a special use permit, but stipulated that "no heavy commercial trucks, conveyances, or related construction equipment" was allowed, and that no improvements, such as blading, were permitted on the access road. In September 2000, park rangers noticed that the road had been bladed and widened several feet, which prompted the park to revoke the special use permit. The company did not admit wrongdoing at first and battled NPS and BLM attempts to exact restitution and cancel the project, but the DOI agencies prevailed in mid-2002. [280] In late July and early August 2001, a telephone company widened and graded more than three miles of road along a right of way to a microwave tower in the park, and built a new building at the site without NPS clearance. More than one mile of this road was a cherry stem into a designated wilderness area, and located in critical desert tortoise habitat. The Park Service is seeking compensation for the damages under 19jj. [281]

Mojave National Preserve has had to battle what is traditionally an urban problem - graffiti. Some visitors are amused by the spray-painted graffiti in the middle of Kelbaker Road south of Baker. In 2002, Ranger Bob Conway apprehended four suspects shortly after they allegedly used blue spray paint to cover some boulders with graffiti inside the Preserve. In cases such as these, the Park Service again can use the 19jj statute to get restitution for the full cost of the damages.

Illustration 16 - Mojave National Preserve has to face typically urban problems such as this graffiti on Kelbaker Road. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2001.)

Like many large parks, the Preserve has faced environmental damage resulting from the crash of a small airplane and the subsequent search and salvage operation. On March 8, 2000, a Piper Supercub flying from Las Vegas to Chino, California, was reported missing. The pilot, Robert Bogle, was the only occupant, and was last seen by a companion aircraft near Primm, Nevada. San Bernardino County Sheriffs, the Civil Air Patrol, and the California Highway Patrol searched for the missing plane and found it in the Ivanpah Valley, about 3 miles inside park boundaries. The next day, the plane wreckage was investigated by the sheriff's office, the county coroner, and the National Transportation Safety Board in helicopters and ground vehicles. The pilot's body was recovered, and on March 13 a salvage company hauled away what was left of the plane. During the recovery efforts, three helicopters landed at the site, and at least two vehicles drove straight to the site from Morning Star Mine Road, a distance of more than a quarter of a mile.

At the crash site, on a gently sloping bajada near the Morning Star Mine, there was a small burn and debris field, measuring only 75 feet by 39 feet. The crash burned 4 yuccas, 3 small barrel cacti, and two large creosote bushes. Some hydrocarbons and traces of heavy metals contaminated the soil, but did not extend down farther than about one foot. During the recovery/salvage process, vehicles drove over many plants, although reports indicate that the drivers may have tried to miss the biggest ones. There was no apparent wildlife damage, although the area is designated critical habitat for the desert tortoise. Total cost of replacement of the plants damaged was $4,760, and the projected total costs of the operation to restore the area, including minor landscape recontouring and administrative time, was $24,691.45. The NPS decided to pursue a claim under 19jj for the amount from the insurer of the airplane, but as of this time the claim is still under adjudication. The Ivanpah airplane crash highlights the appropriate use of the 19jj statute by the Preserve to receive compensation for all damages to park resources, no matter how noble the cause may have been. [228]

railroad cars
Illustration 17 - The Union Pacific Railroad bisects Mojave National Preserve and creates unusual challenges for park rangers. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2002.)

The Union Pacific Railroad (UP) bisects the Preserve, and brings special challenges to law enforcement rangers. The railroad is a target for vandals, and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, rangers paid even closer attention to any unusual activity near the railroad. Park rangers assist railroad police with any problems they might have along the Preserve portion of the UP line, and railroad personnel reciprocate by informing the rangers about any suspicious activity they might see. This positive, though informal, working relationship caused NPS rangers to assist railroad police apprehend thieves in the park. Burglars frequently boarded freight trains in the UP yards at Yermo, and broke into shipping containers while the train was moving. When the heavy freights slowed as they ascended the Cima grade, the bandits threw merchandise from the train. Accomplices collected it, loaded the contraband into waiting trucks, and hauled it away. The railroad lost more than one million dollars a month at one point from this kind of theft, but heavy enforcement by UP police and park rangers put a stop to the practice.

Rangers also have to worry about the railroad as a catalyst for other problems. On March 4, 2001 park personnel responded to a fire blazing in a pile of debris near the tracks. Footprints at the site suggested that the fire was deliberately set, and that the perpetrator escaped by jumping on a train climbing the hill. [283] This incident stands as an illustration of how the presence of the railroad can encourage undesirable activity in the park.

The trains themselves pose a hazard to the Preserve. Shortly before noon on January 12, 1997, Union Pacific westbound freight train #6205 lost control coming down the Cima grade and overturned at the Hayden siding. Trains ordinarily utilize engine braking to keep speeds below 20 miles per hour coming down the hill, but this time the engineer accidentally shut off the diesels. Air brakes, ordinarily sufficient to stop such a train on a normal grade, did little to slow the three locomotives and seventy five hopper cars full of bulk corn on the steep hill. The train reached 72 miles per hour just before sixty eight of the train's cars derailed and spilled their contents along the tracks. Ranger Brian Willbond described the scene as "a fantastic pile of rubble fifty feet high, with metal and corn everywhere." The railroad hired a salvage company to clean up the mess, but some loose corn was left behind, leading park personnel to worry about the effect of the increased food supply on the raven population. The wreck also suggested how much worse things could have been. "Tank cars are designed to survive a crash, unlike those boxcars," Ranger Tim Duncan observed, "but that doesn't mean they would." In the wake of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted the danger that the super-steep downhill grade at Cima posed to heavy modern trains. In the event of a failure of the engine braking system on a train, the engineer has very little time to apply the air brakes before the train picks up so much speed that it cannot be stopped. The incidents prompted the railroad to make procedural changes to hopefully give train engineers more time to stop if an engine failure occurs, but the potential for future problems remains along Cima Hill because of the steep track slope. [284]

Mojave National Preserve sits between Interstate 40 and Interstate 15, a circumstance of geography that has direct and indirect implications for the park. The NPS has mutual-aid agreements with the San Bernardino County Sheriff, the BLM, and local fire and emergency medical service agencies. Park personnel response to highway incidents pose a substantial drain on NPS resources, although the relationship also benefits the park when emergencies occur inside its boundaries. Cargo traffic on the freeways poses a potential threat to the park's landscape. If a vehicle drove off of the right shoulder of northbound I-15 or westbound I-40, the damage would be within park territory. So far, however, no incidents of damage to park lands have taken place in this fashion.

Easy freeway access was an indirect catalyst for one of the most significant crimes Mojave law enforcement rangers have faced to date. From April to August 1995, Gene LeFave and his son, Louis LeFave, dumped ninety-seven drums of hazardous waste in the desert on NPS, BLM, and privately-owned land, rather than pay the $1,000 per barrel cost for legal disposal. Under cover of darkness, the LeFaves brought 55 gallon drums of waste products, including solvents, rubber, and adhesive glues, from their Las Vegas-based epoxy manufacturing business to a series of sites off Nipton Road, and pushed the barrels out of trucks onto the ground, where some split open. Most of the six sites used by the LeFaves in Mojave National Preserve were in washes, where the waste could have contaminated water supplies. Some small wildlife was found dead, stuck in the residue, by CDF&G officials. An interagency team, including federal and state law enforcement officials, apprehended Louis LeFave and a seventeen year old boy in the process of dumping more waste. In federal court, Louis LeFave was fined $40,000 and sentenced to two and one-half years in prison, while his father, Gene LeFave, was fined the same amount and sentenced to almost four years in jail. The Park Service and BLM spent more than $170,000 cleaning up the dump sites. Chief Ranger Bill Blake, Martin, and Ranger Eric Inman later accepted the DOI Secretary's Award on behalf of Mojave National Preserve for the park's role in the investigation and prosecution of the dumping case. [285]

"Operation Sweet Success" may prove to be just as momentous. Since at least the mid-1980s, an organized group of Hispanic workers have illegally collected barrel cacti from federal lands in the desert, including Mojave National Preserve lands near Nipton. These cacti were cut into pieces and sold to two competing companies in the Los Angeles area, where they were made into biznaga, a form of cactus candy popular in Mexico. A Department of the Interior special investigator was in charge of the case against the cactus poachers, and was assisted by personnel from several agencies, including Mojave National Preserve. Ranger Tim Duncan participated in raids on the candy facilities in December 1999, and had earlier helped detain suspects found harvesting cacti on BLM land near Clark Mountain. Agents in charge of the case estimate that some 15,000 mature barrel cacti were removed from federal lands in the desert at the behest of the cactus poachers, who knew their activity was illegal but bragged that they could not be touched because of powerful and influential friends. At a replacement cost of $50-$200 per cactus, depending on size, the final cost in environmental damage alone will be substantial. The case is still in adjudication, but the Park Service intends to seek restitution under the 19jj statute for damage to park resources. [286]

A history of less restrictive management of the desert the BLM posed special challenges to park rangers once the lands transferred to Park Service control. A substantial problem has been posed by off-road vehicle and all-terrain vehicle users in the park. Some off-road users, such as careful four-wheel drive groups, impact the desert only lightly and take pains to minimize ecological damage. Other all-terrain vehicle users, especially some motorcycle riders, have caused great damage in parts of the California desert by riding aggressively across undisturbed land. The BLM acknowledged this fact in the 1980 Desert Plan by setting aside small portions of the desert as "open play" areas for OHVs, and setting other areas aside as off limits to off-roaders. Most of the area that became Mojave National Preserve was open to use by off-highway vehicles, as long as the machines had a "green sticker" and stayed on established trails or in washes. NPS policy permitted only street-legal vehicles to operate in the park, thus excluding a large number of motorcycles, ATVs, and dune buggies. Nonetheless, ATV use in the park continues, albeit at far lower levels than before. In November 1999, Ranger Sean Isham issued four citations for ATV use in the park in less than one week. The OHV problem is compounded by the CDPA's decision to establish the park's western boundary, a wilderness area, adjacent to BLM's Rasor open play area. As a result, vehicles often stray, accidentally or otherwise, from the open area into the Preserve's Soda Lake wilderness. Thanksgiving weekend traditionally saw heavy use of the play area by OHV users. Mojave responded by bringing in SET teams of rangers from other parks to patrol the boundary. The first SET team secured the area in 1994, and others did so in succeeding years, although the problem diminished in severity as users were educated about the regulations. In a typical example, five rangers from Lake Mead NRA patrolled the area during the 1999 holiday weekend, while Mojave's full ranger force monitored the rest of the park. The SET team issued five citations and many warnings to errant OHV users. [287]

Sometimes ATV use causes other problems. In November 2000, two boys, 11 and 14 years of age, were riding ATVs on private land near Fourth of July Canyon. They collided and were both seriously injured, suffering broken bones, a dislocated hip, and possible spinal injuries as well. NPS rangers were the first to arrive on scene, and stabilized the victims for over 20 minutes until medical personnel could arrive. The two were both flown by air ambulance to Las Vegas hospitals. The large distance from the Preserve to the nearest medical care in Las Vegas means that NPS first responders bear substantial responsibility for initial medical care in case of emergencies in the park. [288]

Desert users acting according to local custom and less restrictive BLM rules occasionally found themselves in violation of NPS regulations against firearms. Under BLM, firearms were allowed in the desert, and casual possession and use of guns was common in the area. After the shift to NPS management, firearms were only allowed in the park during hunting season, and only if the carrier was also in possession of a valid hunting license. While overall firearm use has been reduced significantly from pre-park levels, not all visitors received the message. In 1999, Ranger Duncan stopped several boys riding ATVs inside the park. When he followed them back to their campsite, he spoke with the adult in charge, and asked if he had any guns with him. The man told Duncan that he had a 9mm Glock pistol with him, which the ranger requested, and kept for the remainder of the interview. Before leaving, Duncan informed the gentleman of the regulations prohibiting firearms in the park, then returned the gun and wished him a nice day. This incident illustrates both the commonality of firearms among park users, and the use of a tolerant and understanding attitude by park rangers to educate patrons who may not be familiar with the differences between NPS and BLM regulations. [289]

This system of balanced response is not merely the personal attitude of one humanistic ranger but is instead a conscious, though informal, policy emanating from Superintendent Martin and Chief Ranger McGuinness. Realistically, Martin and McGuinness understood that the move from low-key BLM control to NPS management, which appears intensive in comparison, would be quite a shock for desert users. Accordingly, the rangers were instructed to be long on warnings and short on citations at first. This "long leash" would then grow progressively shorter over the years as users adjusted to the Park Service's rules and regulations. The policy, though informal, seems to be working well, and long-time rangers suggest that they have far fewer problems now with firearms and other violations of NPS policies. [290]

Rangers also help the public in ways more in line with the traditional image of the helpful and friendly Park Service. In March 1998, a twelve-woman group of Sierra Club campers were stranded at Mid Hills campground by an unusual rain and snowstorm that buried their street vehicles. Ranger Tim Terrill, on patrol through the area, found the campers. "All were well, but most sincerely wished to be elsewhere, particularly somewhere warmer," noted a local newspaperman. Terrill and other NPS personnel, some using their personal vehicles, helped ferry the stranded visitors to Baker, where Interpretive Ranger Kirsten Talken helped them find rooms and food. In all, suggested a local reporter, "a disaster had been averted by quick action by the Park Service." [291]

Hunting, an unusual practice in national parks outside Alaska, was authorized in Mojave National Preserve by the CDPA, and is managed jointly by the park and the California Department of Fish and Game. In the United States, historic precedent has established that the state has control over wildlife on public land, even federal land, but the Park Service's Organic Act reserves control of wildlife to the agency inside national parks. The California Desert Protection Act explicitly reaffirmed that the California Department of Fish and Game would regulate hunting in Mojave National Preserve. As a result, both California State game wardens and NPS rangers enforce the hunting rules set by the state. Rangers also enforce regular park regulations, such as camping restrictions, on hunters in the Preserve when necessary, since game wardens do not have the authority to address violations of NPS rules. [292]

An administrative adaptation helps Mojave National Preserve's resource and visitor protection rangers work most effectively, despite their small numbers and the size of the park. Rather than divide the rangers into rigidly defined districts, each of the three full time field rangers is responsible for a "patrol area," consisting of approximately one third of the park. Each ranger is responsible for knowing the backcountry and problem sites of his designated area intimately, and must be able to notice any changes that occur and note use patterns. [293] If rangers working outside their designated patrol area spot something unusual, they share the information with the appropriate colleague. This "patrol area" structure works well. Because of low staff levels, it is common to have at least one patrol area without a ranger on duty at any given time. Rather than leave that area of the part without a ranger presence, the on-duty rangers scout the heavily used features of the park, no matter what patrol area includes them. In their own designated areas or elsewhere as necessary, rangers patrol wilderness on foot or, beginning in April 2002, on horseback. Given the visitation patterns of the Preserve, with high use of paved roads and very low use of the backcountry, coupled with low ranger staffing levels, the "patrol area" system is a flexible and intelligent response to a thorny problem. [294]

Fire is a major threat in Mojave National Preserve. Skeptics unfamiliar with the desert might wonder if anything exists that can burn, but a quick tour of the park would dispel such notions. The Mojave ecosystem is not very well adapted to fire, and would take a long time to recover from even a small conflagration. The presence of exotic grasses, which came to the desert during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century grazing operations, contribute to fire concerns. These exotic grasses burn rapidly and ignite very easily, and their perennial growth pattern allows fuel loads to build up rapidly, especially if the grasses are not being grazed by cattle or other foragers. Historically, range fires were uncommon, because grazing prevented fuel loads from becoming dense enough to spread fire rapidly.

BLM established a fire center at Hole-in-the-Wall sometime after systematic development of the area began in the 1960s. Equipped with rugged heavy wildland fire trucks, the Hole-in-the-Wall center, staffed only during the summer fire season, defended a huge swath of BLM desert. After passage of the CDPA in 1994, the Hole-in-the-Wall facility was located on NPS land, but BLM had neither the desire nor the funding to build a new separate facility for its fire forces. The two agencies agreed to jointly manage the Hole-in-the-Wall center. NPS and BLM each provided one fire engine and half of the firefighters, shared fiscal responsibility, and had a single joint manager for both programs. In the first years after the passage of the CDPA, two BLM fire employees played important roles in the Preserve's fire program. Ken Smihula, who worked for BLM, served as Mojave's acting Fire Management Officer (FMO), with support and guidance from Joshua Tree National Park's FMO. James Argon, engine captain for the BLM crew, assisted the Preserve with the details of getting a new fire program in place. Between 1995 and 1999, the fire crews averaged 100 wildland calls per year, on both BLM and NPS land, and an additional 150 calls per year for traffic accidents, mutual aid responses, medical incidents, and non-wildland fires. After the park received additional funding in 2001 to increase the level of emergency protection, the park was able to retain a reduced crew, subject to furlough, throughout the whole year, rather than only during the peak summer season. The importance of the Hole-in-the-Wall fire center was highlighted by NPS plans to replace the old facility with a larger one in the same location. Mojave's fiscal year 2002 budget included more than $1.5 million for the project. [295]

The fire crew at Hole-in-the-Wall is the main source of emergency protection for Preserve resources, but by no means the only one. All law enforcement rangers in the Preserve are also trained as emergency medical technicians. [296] Additionally, Mojave NP has created mutual-aid agreements with all of the emergency response agencies located near the park, and San Bernardino County Fire Department routinely responded from Baker to incidents in and near the Preserve, especially for fires larger than the BLM and NPS wildland trucks can handle. The future of mutual aid in the area of the Preserve, however, may rest disproportionately on the shoulders of the Park Service. In July 2002, San Bernardino County Fire Department removed their engine that was stationed at Baker, because inmate crews that had been manning the rig were no longer available. As a result, the Mojave National Preserve crew was forced to respond more frequently to emergencies from Baker to the Nevada state line, adding an additional drain on park resources. Months later, a series of stopgap measures reopened the station temporarily, but the long-term situation remained tenuous. [297] One of the single most important structures in the park, the Kelso Depot, received two fire hydrants and hose boxes during fiscal 1998 as a measure of fire protection, and regular park staff were trained on how to use the new equipment if a fire broke out at the building. The fire crew has also served as a source of labor for park projects. For example, the Mojave fire crew, with supervisors from Lake Mead NRA, tackled exotic tamarisk removal at springs in Mojave, Death Valley NP, and Lake Mead in 1997. [298]

Initially, Mojave National Preserve's fire programs were managed by Smihula, in cooperation with Joshua Tree NP's Fire Management Officer. Without a fire management plan in place, the Preserve conducted a policy of total suppression of wildfires in the park, as required by Park Service policy. Progress was slow on a fire management plan for the Preserve until Kristy McMillan was hired as Mojave's FMO in November 1999. [299] Other smaller safety plans, such as the park's aviation safety plan, were created in the meantime. In terms of fire preparedness, the Preserve has been lucky — as of 2002, no major wildland fires had swept the land and threatened park resources.

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Last Updated: 05-Apr-2004